This very tasty "cowboy" pasta sauce, as it is known in southern Tuscany, in the Maremma, is essentially a ragù made of anything but beef, which was too expensive for traditional Maremman cowboys—prosciutto, pancetta, sausage, chicken livers, anything to add to and “beef up,” so to speak, a ragù that may have not actually had any beef in it.
In Tuscany, sausages are always pork, have natural casings, and usually not flavored with anything but perhaps some fennel seeds. Choose good quality sausages. Go for fresher sausages over aged ones (they will be softer, so easier to crumble and incorporate into the sauce) and no gluten or anything else added that might affect the texture of the cooked sausages in the ragù.
Use any pasta you like with this, it is often made with rigatoni or penne pasta, but a long pasta like a spaghetti or pici does very well too. —Emiko
4 generous portions
extra virgin olive oil
onion, finely chopped
carrot, peeled and finely chopped
celery stick, peeled and finely chopped
clove of garlic, chopped
A few slices prosciutto (roughly 1 oz/30 grams), cut into thin strips
(60 grams) of pancetta, cut into thin strips or diced
A few sage leaves
sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
Italian pork sausages (roughly 300 grams worth), casings removed (see note)
Place olive oil in a wide skillet and, over low heat, add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, prosciutto, pancetta and herbs with a pinch of salt and cook, covered, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes or until vegetables have softened and the fat is transparent. Add the sausages, crumbling the meat into the pan, and cook, stirring, over medium heat, to brown it, about 10 minutes. Pour over the white wine and let cook down for about 5-7 minutes.
Add the tomato purée along with about 2 cups/500 ml water and bring to a simmer. Cook on low, uncovered, for about 40 minutes, topping up with water as necessary and stirring occasionally. After about half an hour, check for seasoning and add salt and pepper as necessary (this is a fairly robust sauce with lots of flavour from the prosciutto, pancetta and sausage so you may not need any extra salt). Set aside. This can be prepared the day or two before needed.
When ready to eat, heat a large pot of water on to boil the pasta. Once boiling, add salt (about 1 teaspoon per liter) and the pasta. Boil until al dente, then drain and toss with the warm sauce. Serve with finely grated pecorino or parmesan cheese over the top.
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.